Riding a motorcycle on a tour, or on a long distance is one of the most satisfying things you can do. But, it also requires a bit of thought. Here’s some tips from experienced motorcycle traveller and journalist, Marc Potter, who’s done everything from riding around Lesotho in Africa on dirt bikes, to riding Route 66, and has covered 1000 miles in a day on occasion, just for fun.
Tips for riding long distances:
Keep hydrated: Drink at least 1.5 to two litres of water a day when you’re riding. You’ll be amazed how much drinking water helps you keep your focus, and how much you sweat out when ‘just’ sat on a motorcycle covering distance. We always stick a bungee on the back of the bike to attach a water bottle to the rear seat, or ride with a Camelbak.
Use kit you are comfortable with: Ride in textile kit so you can open vents if it gets hot, and stay dry if it starts raining. Use multiple layers if it’s cold, you can always take them off and stick them in a pannier if it gets too warm. Use a helmet you know is ultra-comfortable. Using a new helmet is way too risky when you’ve got big miles to cover, and when we say big miles we mean anything from 300+ miles in a day.
Lay off the beers: A few beers the night before your ride may seem like a great idea, but it will only dehydrate you and make longer rides more painful, aside from the obvious risks of still having alcohol in your system when you ride the next day.
Move, regularly: It may look weird to other road users, but we regularly play motorway aerobics, take a hand off the bars and wiggle your fingers, stretch your legs, move your neck side-to-side. You’ll feel less stiff for it. All done in safety, of course.
Remember to ride on the right (or left): It’s so easy to pull out of a petrol station or junction when abroad, and naturally pull on to your usual side of the road. I once broke my pelvis doing exactly that as I rode on the wrong side of the road into a car. Stick a note to your screen saying, “RIDE ON RIGHT” if riding abroad.
Only stop once every other tank: If you stop and have a drink every time you fill your bike up, you will lose so much time. Use a strict stopping plan, so you only stop for a drink and snack every other tank.
Check your documents are all in order: It goes without saying, motorcycle insurance, licence, MOT, yellow jacket if required for the country you are in, spare bulbs, first aid kit. Get the basics right and you can spend more time riding. After all, that’s why we’re here, right?
Make sure your bike is up to date on its service: If you’re planning a big trip, and we’re talking 2000+ miles, you don’t want your oil to be on its last legs when you get to your destination, so give your bike a home service, or get it professionally done. Failing that, at least check your tyres are good for the distance, and mechanically your bike is sound, the chain is adjusted, and your oil is at the right level.
Set your bike up for yourself: Move your handlebars to the right position, move the span adjust brake levers to where you like them, soften off the suspension if it feels a little harsh, invest in a gel seat pad if you often get a numb rear on the weekend 100-mile ride. That screen annoying you? Then invest in a taller one before you go. These tips will make a big difference to the number of miles you can cover in comfort when on your big trip.
Keep your visor clean: Flies, bugs, road grit and grime. Keep your visor clean, using a proper visor cleaner like Motul, or but one of those small, pocket-sized glasses cleaning kits from Boots for around £5.
Do a test run beforehand. Load your motorbike up with all your kit that you are taking on your trip and do a 50-mile ride. Ride in the kit you will use on your big tour. That way you’ll know if anything isn’t working, or the tank bag you have doesn’t fit properly, the jacket your wearing flaps at speed etc, before you’re committed to your big ride. It’ll get you into the groove too, especially if you’ve been out of the saddle for a month or two.
Check your route before setting off: Have a look on Google Maps and see what the traffic is like before you leave. Have a safety map written on your tank or in your tank bag of key roads and directions to head for, should your sat nav fail.
Get bike fit: Do a few warm-up exercises before you get on the bike to get your body warmed-up in the morning. Seriously!